Deer hunting group rekindles tradition repeated across Minnesota

Mike Scarborough of Alexandria, Minn., hunts deer with Mike Eilertson and Chuck Jost of Detroit Lakes and John Korzendorfer of Hermantown at their camp in northwest Minnesota. Gathering there Friday, the men continued a tradition begun in 1989, when the property was purchased. Following is a diary of the camp’s opening day events, as recounted by Scarborough to Star Tribune outdoors columnist Dennis Anderson.

Friday, 6 pm Chuck, John and I have pulled into camp. But Mike [Eilertson], won’t be here until Saturday evening, after hunting opening day near his home with his wife. For our pre-opener supper we picnicked outside, feasting on California burgers, potato salad and chips, and washed it down with a beer. There’s a TV in our cabin, and we watched a little football before dousing the lights at 10.

Saturday 6:45 am I like to be in my stand early, and there was still plenty of darkness remaining when I settled into my tree perch. I face east, and the sunrise in this part of Minnesota, not far from Ponsford, will be beautiful. To my left and right are sloughs, glimpsed now only through the dim morning light, with the slough to the left being larger. Between the two wetlands is a funnel. This is the area I watch for deer. I’ve scored here before, so I’m confident — sort of.

9 am To the northeast, someone just shot — finally. For a deer opener, the woods are very quiet, although there are a lot of noisy waterfowl on the bigger slough. Geese and even more swans are flying right over the top of me on the way to and from the slough. Beautiful.

9:30 am. Just heard from John. He’s seen a doe, a fawn and two coyotes. No word yet from Chuck. There was a time some years ago when we applied for doe permits. We still could. But we don’t. We try to shoot only bigger bucks.

10:15 am Only in Minnesota: From basking in sunshine and shadows not long after sunrise, the woods are now shrouded in a cold, gray fog. The change occurred in minutes, and I can no longer see the slough to my left. Meanwhile, a porcupine has climbed a tree 10 feet to my right and is now eye level with me. The more I look at him, the more I think: That’s one goofball animal.

11:45 am It’s been a long sit— 6:45 till now. Going to get down, stretch and grab a frozen candy bar. Also, I need to check what’s going on with my Gophers, who are down 10-0 to Nebraska. Porky the porcupine, meanwhile, has ascended to the very top of the tree and is just hanging I’ve also been visited by a pileated woodpecker. What a neat bird! How do they not get headaches? He’s been knocking the snot out of a dead aspen.

Noon: In our camp, we all have roles, more or less. Mike, who will arrive late this afternoon, is our best cook. In fact, he thinks he’s Gordon Ramsay! He’s making elk burritos tonight with meat he brought back from out West. Dinner will be great. I’ll lead the clean-up afterward, because I’m the Felix Unger of our bunch. I just bought a new vacuum cleaner for the cabin and I’m anxious to fire it up.

1:00 pm The day’s grayness has lifted, and the afternoon is brightening. The morning that started at 18 degrees is now 36. Pretty comfortable, really. Deer are scarce so far, but the swans are keeping me company. I’ll be there are over 100 of them. Quite the racket. Huge birds.

1:40 pm Like our bunch, the hunters northeast of us have been pretty quiet. I think there’re six of them. I was hoping they’d kick something my way. But nothing yet. Meantime, nothing to do but sit here and wait. Either way, deer or no deer, it’s all enjoyable. I love my time in the woods.

2:15 pm I’m a sit-in-my-stand-all-day hunter, so I guess I expected to be here as mid-afternoon approaches. But not seeing a deer so far is still surprising. What’s also surprising are the five turkeys that just putt-putted by my stand. Now, how about a buck?

4 pm Not a cloud in the sky now. Conditions have been good today, but 35-40 mph winds are forecast for tomorrow. About 500 yards straight east of me is a just-picked 100-acre corn field. I’m hoping perhaps a buck will swing by my stand on his way to feed. The sun is at my back, but the daylight window will soon be closing. Come on Mr. Whitetail!

5:45 pm Just climbed down from my stand. No buck today, but that’s hunting. Had a great day in the woods. To me, it’s more about going than an end result. Plus, the swans, porcupines, woodpeckers and turkeys kept me company! I have six more days to bag one., meaning six more sunrises and sunsets. Soon, I’ll be back at the cabin, where Mike’s elk burritos will be waiting. We’ll eat in comfort, because four years after we bought the property, we ditched the old mobile home we were sleeping in for a portable classroom we bought from a nearby school. It’s the home away from home that Mike, Chuck, John and I enjoy coming to every November to hunt deer.